Writing is Inherently Political — and That’s OK

An odd outbreak of originality burst onto the pages of the Claremont Independent this week, odd because this sort of thing usually gets waylaid in between the CI’s morning prostration to Ronald Reagan and its evening sermon on Ted Cruz. But it seems like this week the CI might finally be living up to its name: finally, the CI has published something that is truly independent, a full-on departure from both liberal and conservative orthodoxy.

Its editor-in-chief, Steven Glick PO ’17, has boldly rejected a truth that has hitherto been taken for granted on both the left and the right—the knowledge that writing is, well, political. Glick has chosen to crusade against this primordial fact, and so he ought to be commended—we are long past due for some real radicalism (I mean, independence) on campus.

Glick kicked off his fight for awareness when he resigned his job at Pomona College’s Writing Center last week, a decision that he candidly chronicles in the CI’s February 28 edition. Glick thought he had signed up to work at the local copyediting shop, but, unbeknownst to him, the Writing Center’s secret goal was instead to impart training in proper argumentation and critical reasoning. Imagine Glick’s surprise when he realized that he was expected to do this too, that “writing instruction would be delivered with a side of ideology!”

We have to understand, though, that Glick’s objection is not just to the specific kind of ideology that was being taught at the Center, which, it must be said, was of a leftist bent. No, Glick is actually aghast at the idea of any ideology at all accompanying training in the art of writing: his revolutionary demand is for the Writing Center to espouse, instead, an “apolitical mission” altogether.

So, that’s essentially the question at issue here: Is the Writing Center indeed an apolitical entity, a place to merely learn about appositive phrases and MLA formatting? Or is it a place to seriously confer about argumentation and discourse with the understanding that political choices are necessarily inherent in those activities?

The latter is the belief that conservatives of old held dear—just ask Aristotle (an ancient forebear of conservatism whose Rhetoric is all about the relation between politics and language) or Edmund Burke (the grandfather of modern conservatism and a master rhetorician). Even George Orwell wrote a whole essay dedicated to politics’ intersection with writing, titled “Politics and the English Language”. These great thinkers all knew that every time you choose a word, structure a sentence a certain way, omit a point or specifically include something else, you make grave decisions about your message and how it will be received. Every choice is deliberate, every choice is political.

So it’s startling, yet refreshing, to see Glick embrace the former option. To suggest that the Writing Center should be “apolitical” instead and devoid of this essential process—what an exciting break from tradition!

But to be fair to Glick, he’s no Murray Rothbard. Glick is not so radical as to suggest that the product of writing an article or a paper doesn’t carry a political message—Glick’s own work, of course, is steeped in political outrage.

What Glick is bemoaning, rather, is the idea that the act of writing—no matter what its product ends up being—is in and of itself a political process. For Glick, the act should somehow be divorced from its ends, sort of like how the quality of a pie is unrelated to the quality of its constituent ingredients–right?

In some ways, though, this strange belief is actually one that the CI has embraced for a long time. If its staffers like Glick truly believe that writing itself isn’t political, that goes a long way toward explaining the CI’s dubious journalistic standards. After all, why bother to quote someone accurately if there is no political significance to getting it right? The only thing that matters is the finished article, and the CI says that its method of production is unrelated.

But I think that most people at the 5Cs know this to be false. We know that the Writing Center must indeed teach writing with ‘a side of ideology,’ not no ideology at all. I doubt that Glick was placed on probation because “the Writing Center is harassing [him] because of [his] political beliefs;” rather, it seems much more likely that Glick just fundamentally misunderstood the true nature of the art of writing. That disqualifies him: Of course writing is political, and Pomona ought to hire Writing Fellows who recognize it as such.

For once, CI, this is not the time to be independent.

Matt Dahl PO '17 is majoring in politics.

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